Posted on 6/16/10 05:55 PM
Georges Melies?s A Trip to the Moon, Robert Weine?s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and Orson Welles?s Citizen Kane each told their stories giving special attention to the creative use of visual space. They use their visual space by watching how they used composition, painted sets, and the use of costumes and props. All of these films were unique by the way the composition was for, painted sets were used, and how the props were used.
Georges Melies?s movie, A Trip to the Moon, was filmed in 1902. The technology at this time for filming was limited, and the actors still acted as if they were on stage. The camera never moves and is always set for a long shot. Long shot is a shot that shows the whole background and all the characters in it, from the feet up. The filming was also shallow in depth, where at this time things in the background could not be focused separately from the things in the front. Also at this time the majority of the editing was done on the camera and the basic transition was the cut. A cut is the joining of two pieces of film where the last frame of one piece is spliced directly with the first frame of another piece. The actors also entered and exit from the side of the stages, and you can see this done in every scene before it cuts to the next. The different scenes consisted of the shots taken on earth which were; Astronomers Club, Factory, Rooftop, and the launch site. After these shots were done, they went to their visual effects and showed a rocket crash land into the man on the moon?s eye. Later, this scene is remade in modern day videos from people such as Smashing Pumpkins and R.E.M. The other scenes are created visually on painted sets.
Scenes from when the astronomers crash on the moon are on a painted set. At the time Georges Melies did not know what the moon looked like. The first shuttle didn?t hit the moon till 1960. Melies decided he would make a set of what he depicted the moon to be. It consisted of rocks and boulders, but also some elements like mushrooms and moon people. The costumes and props helped out more in these scenes. The moon people were highly disguised in make-up and different clothes. As the astronomers were dressed up to look sophisticated with their long beards. The props that were used were the spaceship, the astronomer?s umbrella, and the model of the ship and moon. Also, some props were the mist that sprayed up when each moon creature was killed. Georges Melies was able to make a great movie for what he had technological wise.
Robert Weine?s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was a bit more advanced then The Trip to the Moon, but it was also made 17 years later. Weine?s idea was to have a nonrealistic setting, which exaggerated or lacked details to convince the audience that they closely represent to the world they know. The nonrealistic setting had misshapen or abstract shapes, this was shown through out the movie. The movie started out in present time with Francis telling an old man a story about his past. Every time the movie went into a flashback it showed a nonrealistic setting to depict Francis?s state of mind. This German expressionistic style helped out much of the scenes and gave the film an extra flavor. Also some of the editing and transitions they used made the movie very unique for its time. During the film they used masking throughout different scenes; one particular scene is when they masked out everything but Cesare holding a knife in Jane?s room. Masking is a technique that obscures part of the image and directs viewer?s attention to the visible subject. Another technique that was used many times in the film was the iris in and the iris out. An iris is a transition where the image is exposed gradually by widening open. They used this many times to cause a mysterious effect. The setting was crucial to this movie, and it would not of been what it was if it was not for the idea of using nonrealistic settings.
The costumes and props that were used for this movie were very useful; you were able to depict what setting you were in. If you were in the present the props and setting were normal, but in a flashback it was twisted and nonrealistic. Example of this is when we see Dr. Caligari through out the movie he is a spooky man with stripes down his hands. Towards the end when we see him in present time as the Director of the Asylum he is dressed normal and does not have the stripes on his gloves. Also, the make-up on Cesare is a key part of the movie, adding darkness and mystery to the character.
Citizen Kane, done by Orson Welles was a breakout with its new methods of filming. The method that made Orson?s movie so unique was deep focus. Deep focus is used with wide angle or a small lens aperture that will focus into space and shows the importance of a subject. Orson used this technique in many parts of the movie. The first part was when young Kane was being taken away from his parents and you could see him in the background through the window throwing snowballs at the window and yelling ?Union forever.? This emphasized on the importance of his character, but along with the other characters too. The second time was a deep focus on Kane, when his wife found out about his mistress and they were all in Susan?s apartment. They kept on showing Kane and Susan coming to the front, then to the background, but always focused on the characters. Another major part that used deep focus was when Susan decided to try to kill herself; the deep focus was on the bottle so you could see what was going on. Other unique transitions were involved in this move too. The dissolves I picked up are when you see Leeland being interviewed and said he thought Kane was full of himself, and the next scene they dissolve into. They also used montages when Kane and his first wife were at the breakfast table which showed quick impressionistic sequences of images and dissolves. This montage showed the two age and also showed the two getting away from the table further and further. This showed the alienation and failure of the two?s marriage.
Another thing that stuck out of my mind was the use of high and low angles. High angle is when some one is above you shooting down on you ate a high degree angle, this sometimes signifies weakness. Low angle is when the camera is placed toward the ground and is elevated in an angle to look up and show possible power. They used this technique at the time when Susan told Kane that she wanted to quit singing. Kane argued with her and then showed a high angle on the powerless Susan, and then shot up to a low angle shot to show Kane towering over her. The use of composition in this film was very important for this film.
The props were also very important in this film, more than we really think. Kane?s last dying words were ?Rosebud.? Rosebud turned out to be a prop at the end, it was his sled. This prop though was a trigger for Kane?s memory. The other props that became useful were the statues because it showed that Kane liked to collect things. Also, the Declaration of Principles was a prop that was used to show how Kane changed. He signed the Declaration to show his commitment to his paper, but then later on just calls it an antique. The glass globe that Kane was holding also signified Rosebud because it had a cottage with snow around it. This traced back to his old home where he was outside with his sled (Rosebud) and was throwing snowballs at his house. All the props brought the character out of Kane, and that is what made the movie.
Welles, Melies, and Weine?s methods of using the composition in the film that they had at the time made their films outstanding. If Welles didn?t use his props and deep focus as well as he did, it would be a different movie. If Meilies didn?t use the props and the shots he did he wouldn?t even have the same movie, even though it was shot with only one angle. Weine?s film would be totally different if he would have never used nonrealistic settings, you would never be able to tell if he was in a flashback or present tense. All of these methods made the movies what they are now.